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On April 18, 1980, two Irish UN peacekeeping soldiers were murdered in Lebanon. Their alleged killer is now living in the US. Photo by: Photocall Ireland

Alleged killer of Irish UN soldiers is living in Detroit, selling ice cream

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On April 18, 1980, two Irish UN peacekeeping soldiers were murdered in Lebanon. Their alleged killer is now living in the US. Photo by: Photocall Ireland

The Israelis claimed to have no control over nor part in the actions of Haddad’s men. Haddad himself blamed the Irish forces for failing to properly reconcile with the Bazzi family. On Lebanese TV, a man named Mahmoud Bazzi, recognizable as the man in the black shirt from the day of the attacks, took credit for the killings.

The wheels of justice grind slowly

Over the past three decades, O’Mahony, the families of Barrett and Smallhorne, and a number of Irish officials have explored various legal avenues, none of which proved fruitful, largely due to the lack of any extradition agreements between the countries involved.

The Irish Army conducted its own investigation into the attack but declined to make its findings public. O’Mahony twice brought actions against the Irish government, in 1982 and 1989, for damages and for access to the papers on the basis that he, Barrett and Smallhorne should not have been placed under the command of Major Klein and Captain Vincent, since the two men were with UN Observer Group Lebanon, not UNIFIL. The court upheld the army’s right to keep the papers classified, but in 1989 O’Mahony settled with the Irish government for an undisclosed amount.

For the 20th anniversary of the attacks in April 2000, RTE "Prime Time" conducted a special investigation. Titled “The Enclave Killings,” the program brought John O’Mahony back to Lebanon for the first time since the attacks as he retraced the events of April 18, 1980. It also featured interviews with UN General Emmanuel Erskine, and, for the first time, Major Harry Klein, who was by then retired.

RTE reporter Fiona MacCarthy tracked down Mahmoud Bazzi to Detroit, where he is believed to have fled not long after the Irish soldiers were murdered. With a translator, she confronted him by his front lawn. In the footage, Bazzi wears a striped referee’s shirt and hasd salt-and-pepper hair. He walks from his house to his ice cream truck, reluctantly answering MacCarthy’s questions.

 

When she asks him if he killed the Irish soldiers, speaking through a translator he claims that he was innocent, that he was used as a decoy. “I went to the school with them and I was with them but I didn’t do anything. Two members of the UN forces were killed. After that Saad Haddad and other members of the forces came to me and said that I must go to TV and say that I killed them to avenge the death of my brother so no one would talk about it anymore. I went to TV as they told me. I knew that if I didn’t do it they would kill me.”

“The Enclave Killings” brought renewed interest to the case. After a number of inquiries, in 2003, then-Irish Defense Minister Michael Smith announced that the best possible scenario, though unlikely, would see Bazzi standing trial in Lebanon. In 2005, the Irish Defense Minister at the time, Willie O’Dea, requested that then-Attorney General Rory Brady re-open the case and once again look into the possibility of bringing Bazzi to trial in Ireland or abroad. Brady was unable to find a new angle.

In 2006, John O’Mahony was interviewed in Tralee by two American agents. Meanwhile, in the US, Steve Hindy was contacted by the Department of Justice and asked to provide testimony about the attack. Once at Brooklyn Brewery and once in Washington, DC, he was interviewed by members of the DOJ Office of Special Investigations – the same office that was responsible for tracking down former Nazis. They informed him that under the 2004 Anti-Atrocity Alien Deportation Act the office was working on locating individuals who had committed war crimes abroad and were now living in the US.

Nothing, to his knowledge, ever came of it. “Obviously the wheels of justice grind slowly in this case,” he said. “I was disappointed. It sounded like they were going to move, but nothing happened and they wouldn’t give me any explanation why.”

One last chance

As the years go by, the killings have faded from the public consciousness and those involved are getting older. The Barrett and Smallhorne children are all grown up, some with children of their own. Saad Haddad succumbed to cancer in 1984. Major Harry Kelin died of a brain aneurysm in 2002.

“It’s a long time for us all to still be around and thinking about it,” O’Mahony acknowledged. “But for some of the people here it’s still very fresh. I was a soldier and I know it’s a risk you take, you put your life on the line. I would have no problem with this if it had happened in an army ambush or a battle. But this was an outright murder and we can’t seem to do a thing about it, there’s something that always stalls it up. That’s what I don’t like about it: somewhere along the line something doesn’t fit. I don’t really know what [Bazzi] has on his side, but it doesn’t sound right to me anyway.”

There might be one final possibility. In June of last year, Steve Hindy got a call from Special Agent Perry Kao from the New York office of the Department of Homeland Security. With another agent, Tim Auman, Kao paid a visit to Hindy in Brooklyn. They told him Homeland had determined that Bazzi had “entered the United States illegally with falsified papers. He was granted political asylum, then a green card, and now wanted to become an American citizen.”

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